This is an interview with Miloš Petrik about the Science Fiction scene in Serbia.
Milos, please present yourself to our readers
Greetings to your readers! My name is Miloš Petrik, and I am an SF fan, a writer of short stories, and comic strips in the SF, horror, and fantasy genres. I am also a translator of genre and other fiction.
Please try to make a brief introduction on the Serbian SF history.
As briefly as I can put it, the first modern SF work in Serbian (not counting folk tales) was a stage play called „After a Million Years” by Dragutin Ilić. It was published in 1889 and concerns two last remaining persons on Earth. It had been overlooked for a long time in favour of the first Serbian SF novel, „An Extinguished Star”, by Lazar Komarčić. Published in 1902, it is follows the transcedental journey of a man very impressed by the vastness of the cosmos and his adventures in outer space. Lazar Komarčić also lends the name to the oldest SF association in Serbia. To these two, I would like to add Đorđe Lobačev, a comic book writer and artist, who immigrated from Russia to the then Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes during the Russian Revolution. He mainly worked in These three are the earliest creators in the genre, although not exclusively. With World War II there was a break of continuity, and then a period of decades without very many prominent names. Change came in the 1970s, when SF works came to be studied in academia, and the pioneer of this movement was Zoran Živković, himself a writer and translator of SF. From the 1970s to the early 1990s, large state publishers usually had an SF imprint, or SF was published as part of a youth imprint alongside adventure books.
Which are the most popular SF magazines and fanzins (printed and online) in Serbia?
Serbia used to have a very active fanzine scene, and even some mainsteam magazines dedicated to SF or featuring SF stories or comics. I am not aware of any fanzines being printed with regularity, although some appear sporadically. Of those still active, there are the online instances of Art-Anima and AVKF and the Photon Tide YouTube channel.
Which are the SF&F Clubs that have regulare meetings?
Before the Year of the Plague, The Lazar Komarčić association used to have weekly discussion meetings open to the public. They now hold Zoom meetings with the same regularity and publish them on their YouTube channel. The Sakurabana society, primarily a society of Japanese culture enthusiasts, also held regular meetings with anime screenings and workshops.
Which are the most important local and national SF&F associations?
The abovementioned Lazar Komarčić is probably the longest lasting, with Sakurabana being probably the most popular. Both are based in Belgrade. Also from Belgrade are the Art-Anima and AVKF, Photon Tide and Holonet Serbia are from Novi Sad, though the latter appears to have members from many parts of the country and the region.
Which are the printing houses that publish mainly SF and Fantasy?
During the socialist era the answer would have been a one-word one for decades. Nowadays, most mainstream publishers also publish SF, including the largest and the most prestigeous ones. But they go mostly for the high-brow stuff from Orwell and Huxley through LeGuin and Atwood and authors of similar caliber. I’d say Čarobna knjiga and Solaris are focused, though not exclusively, on SF and fantasy on the whole, while Orfelin specializes in horror.
Which are the most popular SF&F conventions in Serbia? What are their main attractions?
The convention with the longest tradition is Beokon, organized by the Lazar Komarčić association in Belgrade, but it is no longer regularly held. Other than that, the Japanizam convention is organized by Sakurabana, as well as several Star Wars days and at least two fantasy festivals: the Epic Fantasy Festival and the Tolkienfest. In each and every one of these cases, cosplay seems to be the main draw, though panels on popular culture also draw some interest.
Who are the main author names in today’s Serbian SF&F?
The most prominent ones include the veterans Zoran Živković and Radmilo Anđelković. It’d be fair to say that the middle echelon is represented by Goran Skrobonja, Ivan Nešić, Mina Todorović, Zoran Jakšić and Boban Knežević, whereas you have a selection of some of the best younger authors in your magazine. Seeing as how most of these „younger” authors are middle-aged, there must be some young up-and-comers I’m leaving out.
Give us some names of SF&F Serbian graphic artists.
Aleksa Gajić is probably one of the more internationally famous ones in terms of comics. Other prominent artists include, in no particular order, R. M. Guéra, Ivica Stevanović, Marko Somborac, Ana Petrović, Aleksandar Zograf… I am probably missing some very well-known names I will kick myself over later.
What makes Serbian SF original?
From the early days it had been less concerned with what one would call „hard” SF, and more on storytelling and worldbuilding in the more general sense. In the recent years fantasy is far more popular, and that is reflected in the SF by authors being often influenced by folk tale motifs and local history.
If I can express it as a formula it’d look something like this:
Rollicking tales of adventure OR modern noir + artistic pretentions + polished prose + historical references = Serbian SF